Gorizia, the capital of Italy's tiniest province, sits smack on the country's northeastern border with Slovenia. In fact, Slovenian is the local language, although almost everyone speaks Italian too. This frontier has changed hands many times (Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms is set there during World War I), and the cooking around Gorizia today reflects the cuisines of its erstwhile landlords - preserved pork products from Austria and goulashes from Hungary join Italian risottos and pastas along with some delightful local wines.
I'm thrilled to have found this regional fare at its home-cooked best in a trattoria (that's gostilna in Slovenian) outside Gorizia that has been run for over 100 years by one family. Be warned, however: A first visit to Gostilna Devetak requires an advance call for directions, a detailed map and a winding drive through forest and pasture on a road the width of a driveway. But what a treat awaits!
Once there, expect to find matriarch Michela Devetak in the kitchen and her family working the two tidy dining rooms. The amazingly low-priced menu is written in Italian and Slovenian. Offerings change often and feature regional cooking flavored with herbs and vegetables from the family garden. In summer months I suggest dining there outside. Begin with a savory tart of Speck (German bacon) and onions, a frittata that's rolled around a stuffing of herbed cheese, or try their mixed prosciutti - pork, turkey, deer and goose. Look for homemade pasta, sauced with game or porcini mushrooms in season, or for risotto-style barley with vegetables. Appetizer and first-course sampling plates eliminate tough decisions, and vegetable-lovers appreciate the vegetarian tasting menu. Boar, hare and deer are always main-course options and a wonderful excuse to drink the region's big red wines. The surrounding region of Friuli produces some of the finest Italian wines, and thirteen pages of them appear on Gostilna Devetak's wine list, one of the most impressive and affordable I've ever seen. Conclude with desserts like grappa-soaked gibanica, mascarpone-coffee custard or a chocolate and whipped cream confection, all well worth the calories.
Gostilna Devetak, San Michele del Carso 48; tel. +39 0481 882488
Closed Monday and Tuesday.
September 3, 1996